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Travel Not Only Broadens The Mind - It Heals It

Positive effects of travel on mental health

Travelling is great. There are plenty of people in the world who would cite ‘travelling’ as one of their major dreams - whether they have a specific destination in mind or not! New sights, new cultures, new languages, new climates...travel is an eye-opening experience, which, as everyone knows can seriously ‘broaden the mind’. But did you know that travel can also heal the mind? It’s true. There’s a lot more to the concept of ‘travel-as-therapy’ than New Age narratives about ‘finding oneself’ on the road. Travel really can have tangible, positive effects on your mental health.

Travel broadens the mind
Positive travel experiences will broaden your horizons and create stimulating effects
on your mental health and emotional stability.

A Change is as Good as a Rest

There’s an old British saying - ‘A change is as good as a rest’. When applied to travel, there’s a surprising amount of truth to this. The thing about getting out of your familiar surroundings, you see, is that you also get out of your familiar obligations. Many of us, when we try to take a ‘rest’ at home, find ourselves bombarded with feelings of guilt about chores or work we could be doing, but aren’t.

This is particularly true for people caring for others - who often chronically overwork themselves, despite arguably needing to give themselves more rest time than usual. Going travelling - even if it’s just taking a night in a hotel the next town over - takes you away from your chores, your work, your stressful responsibilities. And that forces you to relax and give yourself the ‘mental downtime’ that your brain really, really needs in order to be healthy.

Of course, if you find the experience of being away from your responsibilities inherently stressful in and of itself, it may be an idea to set a few contingencies in place before heading away on vacation. Or to not vacation at all. Everyone is different! However, in general, if you’re the kind who finds it hard to rest at home (despite sorely needing to!), try a change of scenery.

Change of scenery creates a positive effect
Just making a change of scenery in your life will create a positive effect on your health,
which will be further enhanced by your travel experience.

Openness and Emotional Stability

Taking yourself out of your comfort zone and heading into new territories can make you much more open generally to new experiences. That’s not just great from a general societal point of view - it can also help you to manage your own emotional reactions. According to research on personality, people who are more ‘open’ are also more emotionally stable - they don’t react with excessive amounts of stress, anger, or dangerous euphoria to unfamiliar experiences. Follow-up research found that those who travel tend to acquire more ‘open’ personalities during the course of their experiences. This in turn makes them more able to cope with changes and developments in their daily lives which may otherwise have provoked bad emotional reactions. In a nutshell, people who travel tend to gain a degree of emotional stability and resilience which is invaluable for good mental health.

A Sense of Perspective

When someone is stressed and/or depressed, they tend to live inside their own heads. From here, their problems get magnified until they encompass the sufferer’s entire world. It’s a miserable situation to be in, trapped in a horrible world of your brain’s own devising. Travel, however, can help. When someone heads out to a new place, they’re forced out of their own head - partly in order to concentrate on where they’re going, and partly because the novelty of an unfamiliar location tempts even the most depressed brain to sit up and take notice.

Why is this good? Because getting out of one’s head is essential for getting a sense of perspective. This does not work for everyone, but for those whom it does work for, it’s often been a crucial turning point in recovery from depression and anxiety. Getting away from the familiar gets you out of your own head, and shows you the bigger world picture. From this point, you can start to understand that your issues really aren’t the be all and end all - that life really does go on.

Get the bigger picture of the world
When you travel abroad you will gain a new sense of perspective,
improve your understanding of other cultures and the world in general.

Beware Travel Stress!

Having said all this, it’s worth noting as a proviso that arranging travel can be a stressful experience, which you may want to enlist help for if you’re suffering from a stress-triggered mental illness. Furthermore, not all nations and people respond well to certain signs of mental illness. It’s as well to check the kind of reactions that your symptoms may provoke before heading to any location. Of course, many cultures may prove more understanding and accepting than your own - which can in itself be a profoundly healing experience! But do your research before committing to anything!

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